Battle Over Business Shutdown, Other Executive Orders Hit Critical Point for General Assembly
The Pennsylvania House is scheduled to return to session on Tuesday to address legislation related to the governor's business shutdown order and other executive actions during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The battle between Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf over the administration's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to reach its pinnacle this week. The House plans to take up several proposals on Tuesday that would cut into the governor's executive power and look to reopen the state's workforce while practicing social distancing and other mitigation efforts. In addition to what was passed last week, on Monday afternoon the House State Government Committee also advanced legislation to reopen the state's car dealerships amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Pennsylvania's General Assembly has been at odds for weeks over whether businesses throughout the Commonwealth should reopen during the unprecedented novel coronavirus pandemic. At the heart of the dispute among Republicans and Democrats is the governor's business closure order issued more than a month ago that has caused some confusion and frustration for many businesses across the state.

Speaker of the House Mike Turzai is considering calling House members back into an "in-person" voting session on Tuesday, as leaders in the House Democratic Caucus are poised to object to a remote governing process that was approved in March to allow the House to take up business and act via proxy and designated voting. Democrats are unhappy with the Republican majority's agenda they believe would undermine the administration's efforts to keep workers and citizens safe during the pandemic.

Furthering the gap between Republican and Democratic leaders, Wolf announced on Friday plans to order the state's Department of Corrections to begin the process of releasing inmates vulnerable to the coronavirus, as well as non-violent inmates at or near their release dates. This order was immediately met with opposition by Republican leaders, including Turzai who said the order is "an inappropriate overreach of executive authority that does not serve the public interest.”

The current animosity between Republican and Democratic leadership at the State Capitol follows weeks of bipartisan action to address critical issues that are a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Late last month , the General Assembly passed important legislation that delays the state's primary election until June 2 , and puts into place an emergency school code that provides flexibility in instruction for schools and addresses important financial issues facing teachers and school employees.

Last week, Wolf announced that Pennsylvania's K-12 schools will be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Stay tuned to Capitol Buzz for more developments on this, and other actions, inside the State Capitol Building this week.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

On Monday, the state Department of Health reported more than 1,350 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide since Sunday, bringing the state total to 24,199. In addition, 524 Pennsylvanians have died directly from complications from the virus. To date, there have been more than 105,500 negative cases across the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf is still asking all Pennsylvanians who must leave their homes for life-essential reasons to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the virus . The state Department of Health has provided guidance on how individuals can create homemade masks for their use in order to preserve high quality personal protection equipment for health care workers. The Centers for Disease Control also announced recommendations for people to wear face masks in public .

Below is a handy infograph on how to make a fabric or cloth mask at home:
Other News...
OSHA issues new guidelines on responding to COVID-19 in the workplace. On Monday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new enforcement guidance addressing how employers should comply with OSHA's illness and injury recordkeeping and reporting requirements when responding to COVID-19 in the workplace. McNees attorneys knowledgeable in environmental, health and safety issues discuss the impacts of these new OSHA guidelines .

FDA relaxes menu and food labeling requirements during COVID-19 pandemic. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidance to provide restaurants and food manufacturers with additional flexibility in distributing food during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Attorneys with the McNees Food and Beverage Law and Energy and Environment Law practice groups break down the guidance provided by the federal government relating to certain food labeling requirements.

As municipalities face budget issues, borrowing to bridge the gap may be required. With the onslaught of negative economic news related to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, many municipalities are scrambling to determine the impact of the pandemic on their finances. According to McNees attorney Tim Horstmann, municipalities faced with tough choices may also be looking at the prospect of short-term borrowing to bridge the gap until tax revenues stabilize. The McNees Public Finance Group discusses the tax and state law implications that municipalities face when considering undertaking such borrowing.

Pa. dairy farmers more vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic. With nearly 20 percent of Pennsylvania's dairy farms closing between 2008 and 2018, the state's dairy industry was already in a vulnerable state. But the current novel coronavirus crisis has limited any growth the industry may have been witnessing in recent years.

'Some Good News' strikes again as Boston-area health professionals get celebrity surprise. Although many of our Capitol Buzz readership might have a strong opinion about the Boston Red Sox, you cannot help but smile when reading about Boston native John Krasinski and former Red Sox great David Ortiz digitally surprising health care workers at a Boston-area hospital in the latest edition of Krasinski's "Some Good News" YouTube show.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) . You can also visit the McNees COVID-19 Article & Resource Page for more information on various legal and political issues created by the novel coronavirus.

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit .

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